Burundi’s foreign minister on Thursday summoned envoys for the EU and several European nations to rap them over the knuckles for skipping a diplomatic meeting he had invited them to, government sources said.
Ambassadors for the EU, France, Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands had been ordered to attend a meeting on Tuesday to be briefed on the “positive development of the situation in Burundi and the resumption of co-operation,” a high-ranking Burundian official told AFP, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Burundi, in the grip of a 20-month crisis since President Pierre Nkurunziza announced he was seeking a third term in office, has been slapped with sanctions by the EU, its biggest aid donor, for failing to halt violence in the central African nation.
“Officially these ambassadors missed this important meeting because they had a busy agenda, but that doesn’t fool anyone because it was clearly a boycott and also an attempt to sabotage this very important activity,” said the government source.
“It is unacceptable and that is why the foreign minister summoned them, to give them a clear message that they must respect the laws of this country,” he said, criticising a “lack of respect of a sovereign country.”
‘Calm exchange of views’
A diplomat who attended the meeting with the Foreign Minister Alain-Aimé Nyamitwe said it lasted several hours and allowed “the calm exchange of our points of view to diffuse an already tense atmosphere as much as possible.”
By imposing the sanctions — travel bans and asset freezes against four top figures — the EU hopes to pressure the government into holding talks with the opposition.
Bujumbura has refused to do so and considers the opposition a “terrorist organisation”.
Nkurunziza’s third term run — which he went on to win — sparked a failed coup attempt and months of protests that led to a government crackdown, armed attacks and assassinations.
The UN estimates that more than 500 people have been killed and some 300,000 have fled since the crisis began.
Bujumbura argues it is the target of a “foreign plot” to destabilise the country, pointing the finger at the EU, France and former colonial power Belgium whose ruling party has accused the government of plotting genocide.
Two weeks ago Burundi recalled its ambassador to Belgium.
Burundi has also moved to quit the International Criminal Court which was investigating the country, and cut ties with the UN’s main human rights body after a damning September report detailed atrocities, and warned of “genocide”.